Live Review

Micah P. Hinson, The Louisiana, Bristol

If you like the man you will like his songs, if you like his songs you should like the man.

Photos by Chris Sansom

With large glasses, a flat cap and a chequered shirt, Micah P. Hinson resembles more of an art-house film director than a musician. His endearingly uncomfortable stage manner (leg spasms, rolling hips, eyes directed to heaven) are offset by his rough-yet-serene vocals. A singing voice tinged with a sadness that can only be visualised as that of a man sat on the porch, fading slowly from this life with a resilient smile on his face. This is Micah’s special flavour of home-cooked Americana. Unshackled from the shadowy piano and strings which line his recorded albums - only man and guitar grace the stage this evening. With tracks like ‘I Still Remember’, Micah has a way of reminding the audience that simplicity is sometimes all there ever needs to be with music.

A moment of beauty hidden away in the box room at the top of the wooden stairs in a watering hole christened The Louisiana, his contemplative vocals and lethargic melody lines strike a chord with the audience. As a nation, the British are not as immersed in the ways of Country as our friends across the great swamp we enjoy calling the Atlantic. So, to a room full of Bristolians, it can only ever seem ironic when a tall, white, Texan flat-picking at an acoustic and singing mournful tunes then proclaims “I fuckin’ hate country”. From being described as anything from Folk to Gospel, stand out tracks like ‘At Last, Our Promise’ clutch at straws in terms of being an accessibly classifiable sound.

Half the charm of his performance is the interaction he has with the crowd and his (latest) wife. When she isn’t helping to readjust the glasses that sit precariously on his nose she is accompanying him on duets of ‘Beneath The Rose’ and ‘On My Way’. And when she sits serenely off stage, Micah turns to her and asks what song is up next (he abhors set lists –according to him they’re not natural). Every break comes with a tale, from a car incident in Spain to the loss of a friend; it soon appears that every song has a place in his life.

If you like the man you will like his songs, if you like his songs you should like the man. Micah and his music are closely intertwined – like a Seasick Steve without the dirt. Johnny Cash without the wrinkles. Bob Dylan without the drag… but at the Louisiana, his set is far from polished. His voice tiptoes out of tune, he plays the wrong chords and forgets lines, but that is half the show, isn’t it? Tonight, he proves his powers as a storyteller rather than a performer, replaying songs just how they were when first written. With his wife whispering from the corner that it’s eleven o’clock, Micah refuses to believe the curfew hour had come upon him, so preferring to go by the pocket watch kept in his waistcoat he treats the audience to three more stolen songs.

With or without a backing orchestra, Micah is a musician not to be missed. Distributing a personal handshake and a “Thank you for coming” to each member of the audience upon exit, he feels like a pal doing a private recital for you in his home.

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